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What Exactly Is a Hashtag?

Dear Dr. Laura

I saw your Twitter post a couple of weeks ago. I have an account, but I just can't get the hang of hashtags. I'm embarrassed to ask, but what exactly is a hashtag?




I remember in my early Twitter days I got the # and @ mixed up in my thinking. You may not know it, but hashtags exist in many social media platforms. You will see them in things like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and even LinkedIn!

People use hashtags to draw attention to the topic they want to talk about. It might be a trending hashtag like #BLM to draw attention to a Black Lives Matter conversation. Someone might use a hashtag like #makerspace when they are talking about a popular topic like makerspaces. You might even see people use hashtags that correspond to a conference theme.

Here's what happens when someone uses a hashtag. Twitter (or other social media platforms) can index the hashtagged words and then the user (you and me) can search for the words that describe something we want to know more about.

So, if you want to start exploring Twitter for topics of interest to you, start by making a list of words related to your topic of interest. Let's use makerspace as our word.

  • makerspace

  • makerspaces

  • STEM

  • novel engineering

  • There are way more words I could list. But I'll stick to these 4.

If you want to start searching Twitter to see what others are saying about makerspaces, add a # at the beginning to turn it into #makerspace. Type the new word into the search bar and check out the search results. Notice across the top you can click on several types of options: Top, Latest, People, Photos, and VIdeos. After you search for #makerspace, move on to the next word - #makerspaces, then #STEM, and finally #novelengineering. Notice I didn't include the space between novel and engineering.

At other times, you may notice a lot of people talking about something. If you are unsure what they are talking about, you can click the hashtag in their post and see what else people are saying. For example, last week I kept seeing #KidLit4BlackLives. After clicking the hashtag and reading around for a while, I eventually ended up on The Brown Bookshelf's Twitter page and learned about the rally they hosted last week online.

You can also use hashtags to find people who are interested in the same things you are interested in. If you explore @makerspace for a while, you might see Colleen Graves and Heather Lister pop up a lot since they talk about makerspaces. You can follow the people who use the hashtags you are wanting to learn more about it. That way you'll see more and more of what they are talking about.

I hope this gives you a little insight into hashtags.

Dr. Laura

Have you met Narda Lugo? She has worked in an elementary library in Pharr - San Juan - Alamo ISD for the past 5 years and is preparing to switch to a middle school library next fall. Click here to listen to her interview.

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